150 Letter from Karen Hughes

Congratulations on choosing tourism as your field of research – there are so many exciting and fascinating things to study! While this is great, beware – you’ll need to focus! Pick an area that inspires and intrigues you then try to link all your work to that. Not saying don’t pursue other interesting avenues, but do try to develop an underlying structure or pattern to your choices – the last thing you want is your CV and publication record to look like an Oriental Hotpot!

I’ve been in this game for many years now, and have worked with lots of great people. And it’s the people who make the journey worthwhile. Find yourself a good mentor – someone whose work and approach you admire – and stick to them like glue. Do the same with a team – if you can’t join an established one, build one from scratch. Over your career you’ll spend many, many hours with colleagues – choose to work with people who make your heart sing, who energise you, who prompt you to be a better version of yourself. Give those who drain you a wide berth – life’s too short!

Academia can be hard work – try not to take things too seriously and never forget to have fun!! We’re lucky we’re in an area that allows us to travel for work – this is gold. Use it! Be a tourist, go to conferences, observe, participate, share your work, soak everything up.

Do not compare yourself to others. Everyone is on a different journey – you’ll get there in the end. Take time to smell the roses, spend time with important people in your life, if relevant – take a couple of years off to be with your kids as they grow up. But most importantly, DO NOT feel guilty for putting family and friends first – work will always be there, they certainly won’t!! I took several hiatuses from work to follow my other half to far-flung postings – Israel, Syria, Malaysia, Puckapunyal – I used these as opportunities to study, to be a tourist, to be a mum, to experience different cultures. Admittedly, the pitstops concerned me a bit at the time (“will I be out of touch?”, “Will I still be competitive?”, “WAH – my career looks like a dog’s breakfast!”), but on reflection, these breathing spaces have made me a more rounded teacher and researcher. And a more compassionate and understanding human.

It’s probably best if early on in your career you accept the fact that your work will never be done – pull yourself up every time you utter these fatal words “I’ll just clear my emails then start on x, y, z”. Emails and requests will just keep rolling in. Sorry sister, if you think otherwise, you’re severely deluded.

On a similar note (and this might come as a surprise to some), you have not been employed to save your workplace – don’t let anyone flatter you into thinking that if you say no to a task, the place will fall apart. It won’t. Let others, particularly the guys, take on some of the jobs – after all, sharing is caring! 😊

Please reach out to the sisterhood if you need support and advice – We get you; we’re in this together! Seriously, there’s no prize for being the most burnt-out.

And don’t let anyone tell you that teaching’s not important – it is! Teaching inspires the next generation, and unless we grab them at undergraduate level, it’s unlikely we’ll see them as PhD students and future researchers. Your role in the classroom is critical – share your knowledge and findings, weave your insights and experiences into your lecturers, inspire and engage students with your enthusiasm! Who knows, you could be standing in front of future leaders in our field!

Finally, look after that Someone Special in your life. Who’s that you ask? You, that someone special is YOU!

Your academic career will fly past – live every day to the fullest and best of luck to you all!

Karen Hughes

The University of Queensland, Australia


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Women’s voices in tourism research Copyright © 2021 by The University of Queensland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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